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IndyCar 2016 driver review: Helio Castroneves

Sonoma Raceway - Day 2

SONOMA, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Helio Castroneves of Brazil drives the #3 Team Penske Hitachi Chevrolet Dallara during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on September 17, 2016 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series field with third-placed Helio Castroneves, once again in the top-five in points.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 3rd Place, Best Finish 2nd, 2 Poles, 4 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 143 Laps Led, 4.2 Avg. Start, 7.9 Avg. Finish

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” quipped Helio Castroneves at the Sonoma season finale. It was accurate once again. The Brazilian secured his 13th career top-five finish in points in 17 seasons – and fifth straight – with Team Penske since joining in 2000, none of them though that elusive P1 he’s craved for so long. Yet that consistency and continued success is what’s kept him at Team Penske and why he remains one of IndyCar’s best all-rounders, even at age 41.

In 16 races, he finished in the top-11 12 times. That included four podiums and eight top-five finishes. He made seven of a possible 10 Firestone Fast Six appearances, tied for third with Scott Dixon and only behind Will Power and Simon Pagenaud in front of him. His 4.2 average grid position was second in the field, only to Pagenaud. And he led 143 laps in eight races, more than Power.

A win went begging in Detroit race two when he was left out too long before a caution period, and that dropped him to one of his season-worst finishes in 14th. Also, for whatever reason, trouble seemed to find him on pit lane. He was in the wrong spot at the wrong time when Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided in Indianapolis, and then survived the year’s hairiest looking accident when Alexander Rossi flew over his nose in Pocono after being released. Castroneves was quite thankful and also noted the safety of the cars.

There’s little on merit to write Castroneves out of a seat because he remains as on top of his game now as he was in his title-contending heyday of perhaps the early-to-mid-2000s. Is he is young as Pagenaud or Power? No. Does he remain a consistent week-to-week threat to them? Yes, and that’s why he continues in his position. Once again, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion drove yet another solid season and enters the history books as part of Team Penske’s 1-2-3 finish this season.

Follow @TonyDiZinno